The 2021 WGECO meeting was held entirely by remote meetings due to COVID-19 travel re-strictions. Participation was strong, however, the remote setting limited the amount of work which could be completed. An initial plan to take up five Tors was made, but considering mem-ber availability and interest, only Tors A and C were addressed this year. WGECO decided to keep all of the Tors for 2022, and will consider developing additional Tors from Tor C (Horizon scanning). Much of this will depend on the current state of COVID-19 and member availability in 2022.
WGECO revisited work to examine the ecological consequences of stock rebuilding, with an em-phasis on benthivorous fish (Tor A). Two case studies with data from the Northeast U.S. and Iceland compared the footprints of fishing effort and fish predation pressure on benthos. An index of spatial overlap was examined and minor (U.S.) or zero (Iceland) significant overlap was observed with bottom trawling effort and predation pressure. In contrast, dredging effort from the Northeast U.S. showed significant overlap with predation pressure for 11 of the 12 benthic prey taxa examined. Without an active or recent benthos monitoring program for the Northeast U.S. continental shelf, conclusions regarding competition between these two overlapping ben-thic pressures remain unknown.
WGECO carried out a “Horizon gazing” exercise to identify key emerging or expected issues, that would be appropriate for WGECO to address at future meetings. Nine topics were consid-ered, listed below:
• Defining criteria for including results from ecosystem modelling etc. in advice
• Fish productivity measured by production ratio (R/SSB)
• Metrics for Ecosystem Overfishing
• Industrial zonation of fishing – the potential for identifying the key areas for fishing and to ring fence these
• BMSY – the use and meaning of MSY based metrics on both sides of the Atlantic
• The elephant in the room, selectivity estimation in stock assessment
• Linking benthic knowledge to fisheries advice
• Fisheries and blue carbon sequestration
Potential ToRs were developed for the first four. The remaining issues were seen as important but not yet ripe for detailed examination. WGECO will keep a watching brief on these and pro-pose additional work as appropriate.